Buses exited the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel for the last time in March 2019 (image: Oran Viriyincy)

On the eve of the new year, it’s time to review the old. In 2019, we dove deeper into ST3 planning. Transit advocates mused on ST4. As the year drew to a close, we also contended with a possible reduction in funding for already approved projects and current bus service in Seattle.

In descending order, our most read posts of the year are:

It’s time to start work on ST4 by Seattle Subway (June 25). Seattle Subway would like you to support a 2024 ballot measure for more rail in Seattle. “Traffic is over – if you want it”.

Build the Aurora Line by Seattle Subway (August 27). Where would those new rail lines go? Seattle Subway and Ryan DiRaimo make the case for an ST4 Aurora Ave line.

ORCA Pod Welcomes Monorail by Brent White (March 11). Despite our past urging, the Seattle monorail had too long remained outside the Orca family. No more. The change took effect in October.

What next after I-976? by Dan Ryan (November 6). ‘Twas the day after the election, and the Courts hadn’t yet begun to scold Tim Eyman for another bang-up drafting job. We crunched the numbers on what a fully implemented I-976 would mean for Sound Transit’s expansion plans.

New Alternatives for the Tacoma Dome Link Extension by Frank Chiachiere (April 3). After Federal Way Link opens in 2024, the next southward extension will complete the spine to Pierce County. Frank took a detailed look at the options for the 10-mile rail extension to Tacoma Dome.

Kirkland and Sound Transit agree on connections to NE 85th BRT station by Dan Ryan (August 26). Sound Transit and Kirkland finally figured out an agreement about pedestrian and bike connections between downtown and the BRT station at I-405. Maybe a future autonomous vehicle connection too.

Sound Transit rethinking fare enforcement by Peter Johnson (April 5). Opening shots in the debate over how Sound Transit should enforce fares while navigating the disparate impacts of fare enforcement and keeping all that fare revenue coming in.

Downtown Kirkland to be an urban center by Dan Ryan (September 3). Downtown Kirkland is finally getting the official recognition it deserves as an urban center that has been more successful than most of the region’s designated urban centers.

Finishing touches for Northgate Link as work continues below by Bruce Englehardt (December 14). Bruce toured the three stations under construction on the Northgate Link extension and shared this great set of photos with us. The stations are far enough along now that the reader gets a good idea what the finished product will look like.

The next 10 years for Link by Bruce Englehardt (July 26). On the tenth anniversary of Link rail service, Bruce looked forward to the next decade with a dramatically wider network north, south and east.

The most commented posts are:

What next after I-976? by Dan Ryan (November 6, 241 comments). After statewide voters, with an assist from Pierce County, voted to take away Sound Transit’s MVET authority, we tried to dispel the spin with a look at the financial and timeline impacts for Sound Transit.

It’s time to start work on ST4 by Seattle Subway (June 25, 179 comments). If I-976 told us anything, it’s that Seattle’s willingness to buy more transit is much higher than elsewhere. Seattle Subway made the case for a 2024 Seattle measure to build more lines across Seattle.

Build the Aurora Line by Seattle Subway (August 27, 171 comments). Seattle Subway looked forward to building this line in North Seattle, one of several opportunities were there a Seattle ballot measure in 2024.

I-976’s impacts on bus service by Frank Chiachiere (November 7, 164 comments). We tend to think of I-976 as a Sound Transit story because that’s where the biggest dollar impacts are. But it would affect Metro too, mostly by taking away half of the Seattle TBD funds.

Future Link riders are mostly in Seattle by Dan Ryan (January 30, 163 comments). The ST3 system will be 116 miles long, but these Sound Transit maps remind us how many Link riders won’t travel so far from downtown Seattle.

Seattle transit ridership pauses after years of rapid growth by Dan Ryan (December 16, 158 comments). Perhaps the more remarkable story is that Seattle resisted gravity so long, growing transit ridership faster than any other major city. But it’s coming back to earth as ridership has begun to lag overall growth.

Can we replace cross-country air with rail travel? Yes, we can! by Anton Babadjanov (February 15, 156 comments). Fresh off the WSDOT business case for high-speed rail in the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver corridor, Anton takes a wider lens to review the prospects for a national high speed network.

Sound Transit may build inline stop at Brickyard, shifting I-405 BRT to center lanes by Dan Ryan (August 10, 139 comments). In which we reinforce our standing as the definitive source of news about transit stops on I-405 overpasses. This small but valuable project enables a BRT that is faster and more reliable than originally envisioned.

A new network in North Seattle by Martin Duke (August 2, 138 comments). Northgate Link could lead to revisions in dozens of North Seattle bus routes. Martin Duke and Mike Orr dive into what works and what needs fixing.

ST3 Level 3 Planning: Lets Not Paint Ourselves into a Corner by Seattle Subway (February 19, 134 comments). Seattle politicians are debating spending maybe billions more on ST3 projects than originally planned. Seattle Subway wants more transit benefits and fewer cosmetic improvements out of all that money.

Sound Transit Board resists adding Seattle rail options over cost concerns by Dan Ryan (October 25, 133 comments). Seattle and the suburbs have argued over whether to build more expensive bridges and tunnels than the ST3 representative projects. The suburbs won this round.

27 Replies to “Most read & commented STB posts of 2019”

  1. Even though the Sound Transit Board hasn’t approved an EIS study for a Ballard 20th street station, could the city do one on its own?

    It seems to me that a station at 20th is crying out for the in-depth study that Sound Transit won’t be doing.

    Simply put, if the study proves the worth of a station @ 20th it would give the city some backup (cover?) to pursue additional funding to make it happen.

    If the study doesn’t prove that a 20th station would be worth it then at least we would then know it.

    Right now I feel as if Sound Transit is missing out on an opportunity to put the station where the people are, where most people would find it the most convenient to use, and where more people would in fact use it!

    1. The North King subarea has sufficient projected revenues for an additional station at 20th as part of the downtown — Ballard extension project. It definitely should be added to the scope of the EIS paperwork submitted to FTA.

    2. Yeah, I agree. The crazy part is that they are studying ideas that are just as expensive (underground) but no better that an elevated line to 15th. That is the part that doesn’t make sense. If we can’t afford a tunnel to 20th, how the hell can we afford a tunnel to 15th. Speaking of which, they are also studying an elevated line that is much worse (14th) along with the combination (much worse and much more expensive — underground to 14th).

      1. Really we probably can’t afford a tunnel to either place. They’re going to study a tunnel option because they have to only to show how insanely out of budget it’s going to be.

      2. I thought it was the Port of Seattle turning any Bridge over the ship canal into a similar Burke-Gilman trail litigation delay.

      3. My concern is that there are people and groups who don’t care about Link as transit, but only how it effects their parochial interests and aesthetic preferences- given a choice between building Link elevated, and not building it all, they might prefer the later, and do everything they can to gum up the ST3 process to prevent the former.

      4. It’s supposedly because of the large sewer that begins(?) or crosses(?) right at 20th. I don’t know enough to criticize that objection, but it’s ST’s story and they’re sticking to it.

      5. There is certainly no reason to have an underground station at 14th. The value of using 14th is the rail ROW down the middle. You get a street almost as wide as 15th with no traffic on it.

        So if the Port and FTA are adamantly against “in-water construction” and insist on a tunnel, 14th is a good place to dig it — no foundations of the existing bridge to avoid and a narrower crossing — an underground station should only be considered at 15th. One at 14th should be at-grade south of Market.

    3. Since it won’t be open to at least 2035, I’m more interested to what the land uses will be in 2040 or 2050. Locating a station where density is today could end up being merely historical when it finally opens.

      If 14th and Market is zoned for 40-story buildings, I’d have no issue with the Ballard station location, for example.

      1. Yeah, and if pigs could fly, I’d fly a pig, to foreign countries small and big …

        Neither are going to happen.

      2. Well….the zoning isn’t in place yet, but 14th is already the leading candidate. Ease of construction, ease of bus/transfer integration, and developer interest (the big profit future development is all East of 15th) all speak to a station on 14th.

        Oh, and the business community is dead set against a station on 15th because of traffic and congestion. Ya, that is a somewhat bogus concern, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have the ear of the political establishment.

      3. Isn’t that exactly the reasoning people made for putting the downtown Bellevue station in the middle of 405, because that’s where all the future development is going to be? Bellevue clearly wants downtown to stretch over I-5 eventually. This blog ridiculed that idea.

        Look what we’re getting anyway – a station right next to 405 in an inferior position for almost every scenario.

      4. If 14th & Market could have 40 story buildings, then Roosevelt, Capitol Hill, and Mt Baker could too. None of them do, and the recent buildings there that could have been 40 stories won’t be replaced for fifty years or more. If Vancouver-style highrise clusters were politically possible, they would have happened by now. Don’t hold your breath for 14th Avenue NW. Northgate is a designated urban center, and its highest zoning is 90′ on the mall lot, which the mall owner won’t even use in the renovation, and all the other lots are limited by even lower caps.

        Seattle has upzoned east of 15th a little bit. 14th from Market to 65th, and Market from 15th to 8th or so will be as high as west of 15th, tapering down north and east of them over the next few blocks. South of Market has a couple things going in but it will still be somewhat industrial, and lots of parking.

      5. 40 floors would be taller than much of downtown. Significantly taller than the space needle itself! However, if the whole 14th Ave. corridor (from the ship channel to 65th ST NE) were to be up-zoned even to 10 floors, it might well make sense to have the station be at 14th. But that is a huge “if.” And IMHO something people who are in favor of 14th should push for.

      6. I doubt that in 1995, there were plenty of skeptics that South Lake Union would ever achieve its density today. 40 stories may be extreme, but I don’t have to stretch too far to envision 20-story buildings.

      7. South Lake Union didn’t have single-family houses! It was decaying industrial, devastated by 99 and I-5. The city was clearly going to upzone it eventually but it kept kicking the can for decades. The other neighborhoods are being held back because single-family homeowners don’t want their neighborhoods to change. Nobody could look at South Lake Union in 1990 and say it should remain like that forever.

      8. The answer to Sam’s question is that zoning and attitudes changed over the decades. In the early 1900s they were trying to build New York Alki, and there were no laws against replacing houses with larger buildings. Urbanization and annexations were popular. By the late 1950s a lowrise and single-family cap prevailed almost everywhere, and annexations had given way to forming suburbs or remaining unincorporated. The two towers in Madison Park and Beacon Hill made people tighten it down further. But still, 2-4 story apartment buildings and businesses were allowed in a wider area than now. In the 1970s it was tightened further, leading to the single-family-only zones close to urban village centers that we have now. Minimum square-foot requirements outlawed new SRO hotels where the poorest used to live.

      9. Well….the zoning isn’t in place yet, but 14th is already the leading candidate. Ease of construction, ease of bus/transfer integration, and developer interest (the big profit future development is all East of 15th) all speak to a station on 14th.

        Yes, Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

  2. “After statewide voters, with an assist from Pierce County, voted to take away Sound Transit’s MVET authority, …”

    This probably should read “with an assist from Pierce and Snohomish Counties”. Let’s not forget that I-976 was strongly supported in Snohomish County as well. (It also passed in the SnoCo ST subarea.)

    1. Why then does Sound Transit persist in building “The Spine”? Truncate at Midway and Lynnwood. Add an elevated looping bus-Link transfer facility between Kent-Des Moines Road and the new 509 interchange and just quit collecting the taxes in Sno and Pierce. Truncate the district appropriately and quit collecting taxes from Sno and Pierce until their “banked contributions are consumed, then set an appropriate sales tax rate sufficient to operate Sounder and remaining STEX routes. That’s what the County Executive of Pierce explicitly requested.

      BUT, to thwart “free-riders” set the fare on Sounder and STEX high enough to cover operations and vehicle replacement , and have a “Taxpayers’ ORCA” like the RRFP available only to people living within the District.

      Cash payers and “Ordinary ORCA” riders would pay the full fare, while the “TP-ORCA” would get half-off or so.

      1. Tom;
        First, I share your anger at how some in Pierce County Government are acting here. Frankly, to be blunt, Pierce County Executive Dammier is making an excellent case for a directly elected in lieu of a federated board because right now he’s in a tough spot making himself and his office more loyal to mostly out-of-ST-district voters than to Sound Transit. This is a conflict of interest and loyalty that never should have happened, and a directly elected board would prevent this madness. Not to mention I’d be the statewide rep and I can assure you we wouldn’t have books about how badly we get trolled by a white supremacist named Alex.
        Second, you need to remember the Sound Transit District is NOT all three counties but a slice of. Please do.
        Third, I am insulted that you want to push this divisive idea forward. It’s divisive and there are some very good reasons why no transit district in the US would ever try such a thing. Not to mention a higher transit fare is just going to shove choice commuters back into their cars – not good for climate goals.
        Very thoughtfully;
        P.S. As you may recall, I was helping a Seattle City Council Candidate very much warn about 976 and helped fight that initiative. In a way, I still am but I really shouldn’t share publicly the details – yet.

    2. “Why then does Sound Transit persist in building “The Spine”?”

      Because it’s what the politicians want. (Except Dammler, who’s a new factor.) It’s part of their general vision of regional mobility and growth management. Regional mobility to them means trunk trips between Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, and their intermediate cities — an alternative to freeway congestion. It doesn’t mean going up to First Hill or Ballard, etc — those are local issues.

      There has always been a disconnect between Pierce and Snohomish’s visions of robust transit and their constituents’ vision of peak expresses and/or low taxes. That disconnect has gotten more stark the past couple years. It’s an intra-subarea disagreement that they’ll have to figure out. (South King is like Pierce but not as extreme. North King and East King constituents are more pro-ST2/3.) The ST district was created this way so that North King and East King could carry the others over the line. Now it’s coming home to roost, because Pierce and Snohomish constiuents are growing more discontent.

      Snohomish’s plan is more sensible: Lynnwood is 30 minutes away and has many trips to North Seattle which is only 15 minutes. Everett and the Paine Field detour are arguably excessive, but only moderately so. In the south end even Federal Way is 50-55 minutes away, Tacoma Dome is even longer, and that’s just the nearest corner of the subarea. It’s like building Link to UW Station and saying that’s sufficient for North Seattle. The rebellion is both over the cost, the fact that Tacoma Dome is in the nearest corner, and the fact that even with Tacoma Dome it’s still over an hour to Seattle. Some of that comes down to the Rainier Valley detour and Link’s 55 mph maximum speed, but most of it is just the distance: everything is further away in the south end. But these facts were known from the beginning, if not recognized.

      “Truncate the district appropriately and quit collecting taxes from Sno and Pierce until their “banked contributions are consumed, then set an appropriate sales tax rate sufficient to operate Sounder and remaining STEX routes. That’s what the County Executive of Pierce explicitly requested.”

      I didn’t hear that specific plan, just “withdraw from Sound Transit if Tacoma Dome can’t open on time”. the impasse could lead to a kind of Brexit. Who has the authority to truncate the district and enact these side deals? Probably not the subareas alone; it would probably require a vote of the entire ST district and maybe state action. One option would be to simply split Pierce and Snohomish into their own tax districts so they could have different tax rates from the rest and separate votes. The state would probably have to authorize that, because it authorized one ST district, not three. If Pierce and Snoho prexited and snexited, then, negotiations would be elaborate. ST can clearly partner with Pierce Transit and Intercity Transit for out-of-district service funded by them, but that’s much simpler than subareas becoming ex-subareas with more than one line each.

      1. Yeah, I’m not terribly wild about more negotiations regarding Sound Transit governance and finances with anyone. An elected board isn’t going to be the end result, it will be reduced funding which means delay on ST3 projects & delay plus denial of transit-oriented development (TOD) opportunities.

        I’m also a bit insulted at Tom Terrific throwing rhetorical barbs at people who depend on Sound Transit products going through the slice of Snohomish County that is within the Sound Transit District itself. A lot of us in the North very, very and did I say VERY much support Sound Transit 3. We are not Pierce County, we are not Tacoma and we certainly are not having from the North Boardmembers who have severe conflicts of responsibility. Thank you.

        Tom, the North is not the South/Pierce and equating us to them is bordering on an insult. Thanks.

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